How a 369-Year-Old Company Innovates With Better HR Tech
Marc ColemanLeadership2018 04 16
When was your company founded?
Matthew Hanwell works at a company that was founded in 1649. For context, that’s the same year Charles I of England was beheaded.
Work culture has changed just a bit since then. In this Q&A, Hanwell shares what it’s like to work at Fiskars, one of the oldest companies in Scandinavia, and how the company is using smart HR technology to move into the future.
What’s it like to work with such an old tradition and culture?
Well, it’s got a heritage to it, obviously. And I think there’s a responsibility to keep it going. There’s a village called Fiskars in Finland. And you go there, you can see the manor house, and you hear the long history. I think it’s 369 years old, and you think, “What about the next 369 years? What will be the transformations and the changes that will happen next?”
There is a responsibility to reinvent the company for the modern age. It’s about keeping it relevant. You don’t stay around that long without remaining relevant to your customers and changing your products as you need to. But how do you stay relevant in the digital transformation when you make scissors and axes? Wedgwood, Waterford and Royal Doulton are all brands of Fiskars. How do you have a family of rich, iconic products and keep the company healthy and vibrant in this ever-changing world?
We’ve talked before about how HR tech has changed. What behaviors do we need in the business to support all the technology that’s around us?
To me, the technology has become the easy bit. Because you install it, there’s a recipe for how you do it, there are well thought-through methodologies that you follow. You have partners who help you get there. But what you don’t have partners for, typically, is changing the behavior and the culture in your organization. So, just because you can use technology, doesn’t mean that people will.
So, how do you create an environment where people want to use that technology, where they see the value? We had a new CEO join Fiskars a couple of weeks ago. I gave her a short introduction to Workday [our human-capital-management platform]. I said, this is probably one of the best induction tools you’ll have, because you’ll be able to see the whole organization with complete transparency. She immediately installed it on her iPad and her phone, and she’s been logging in regularly ever since.
Before there were the end-user-centric technologies, people would come to HR and ask for data. They would ask for a report, and HR would then scramble around trying to find a head count, or a list of the top talents, or whatever it was, and come back days or weeks later with half an answer. What I love to see, and I’ve observed it at Fiskars, is the top leaders using the system, using the technology — [they can] ask one question, and then immediately pivot to another question.
“How many of our top talent are doing this? Where are they? What are they paid?” The interaction with the system is just enabling them to answer a thousand questions at the click of a button.
What’s the lesson for leaders?
It’s important that whatever technology investment you make, it’s aligned with the strategy. Fiskars grew by an acquisition a couple of years ago, which doubled the headcount, and suddenly there wasn’t the visibility of the total workforce. There wasn’t an understanding of what people do, where they are, what capabilities they have. It was vital for the company to understand who the employees are and where they are. Aligning your technology investment directly with the strategy, and a globalization strategy, is very, very important. So, it’s not a tool implementation — it’s a strategic initiative that you’re working on.
Fiskars is truly a global company. We’re in 32 countries with 11 languages. You have to think globally, even though you have to act locally.
Once you have a technology solution in place, what’s next on your to-do list?
It’s the beginning, because then the rubber hits the road. Then, the reality happens. We’ve been live [with Workday] for five months. You want a period of stabilization for people to get used to the new ways of working and discover new features. One of the huge demands we’ve had already is for information, reports and delivering dashboards to people about things that they’ve never been able to see and access on a regular basis.
I think, because the software changes every six months with new releases, new features, there’s always an agenda of evolving better. You’re never actually done. There’s always more you can do, there are always new things you can implement. But the key is to match those things that are possible with what the business requires.